Original Text: 
The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas, III (London: Methuen, 1903): 363-64. PR 4860 A2 1968 Robarts Library. Lucas' text made from Andrew W. Tuer's facsimiles.
2Fie! what filthy hands are here!
3Who that e'er could understand
4The rare structure of a hand,
5With its branching fingers fine,
6Work itself of hands divine,
7Strong, yet delicately knit,
8For ten thousand uses fit,
9Overlaid with so clear skin
10You may see the blood within,
11And the curious palm, disposed
12In such lines, some have supposed
13You may read the fortunes there
14By the figures that appear --
16With a crust of dirt all over,
17Till it look'd in hue and shape
18Like the fore-foot of an Ape?
19Man or boy that works or plays
20In the fields or the highways
21May, without offence or hurt,
22From the soil contract a dirt,
23Which the next clear spring or river
24Washes out and out for ever --
25But to cherish stains impure,
26Soil deliberate to endure,
27On the skin to fix a stain
28Till it works into the grain,
29Argues a degenerate mind,
30Sordid, slothful, ill inclin'd,
31Wanting in that self-respect
32Which does virtue best protect.
33All-endearing Cleanliness,
34Virtue next to Godliness,
35Easiest, cheapest, needful'st duty,
36To the body health and beauty;
37Who that's human would refuse it,
38When a little water does it?


1] Lucas attributes this poem questionably to Charles Lamb (492). Back to Line
15] chuse: choose. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Poetry for Children, Entirely Original, 2 vols. (London: M. J. Godwin, 1809)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.